The Big ‘O’: First, Release Your Expectations

Couple's feet sticking out from under blanketsI frequently share with clients one of my favorite Buddhist slogans: the spiritual advice to “let go of attachment to outcome.” When people begin their work with me with goals such as, “I want to learn how to achieve simultaneous orgasm with my partner every time we have sex,” I suggest they release their attachment to the outcome of orgasm … release their frantic need to climax in perfect synchronicity each and every time. This said, orgasm is pretty darn wonderful—especially when we can relax and “let it be,” as The Beatles sang.

Leonore Tiefer writes about orgasm in her wonderful and sometimes hilarious book Sex is Not a Natural Act. Her alter-ego sexpert, Dr. Frieda Tingle, reports that “orgasm is very important for many Americans because it tells them when the sexual encounter is over. Most of these people enjoy competitive sports, where some official is forever blowing a whistle or waving a little flag to let them know the event has ended. Without orgasm, they would be fumbling around, never knowing when it was time to suggest a game of Scrabble or a corned-beef sandwich.”

I’ve often wondered why so many folks are convinced that simultaneous orgasm is the ultimate pleasure. Perhaps this desire is due to the fact it’s extremely difficult to pull this off. It’s not necessary or even preferable for sexual partners to climax at the same time, anyway. It can feel glorious to witness your loved one climaxing, which is darned near impossible if you’re blasting off simultaneously!

The French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre reported that when he reached orgasm he entered his own private universe, completely losing awareness of his partner. Ouch! Most people find that the feelings that follow orgasm initiate a special kind of intimacy when shared with someone they care about.

I like to suggest that people celebrate the “good enough orgasm”—especially when sex is with the same partner—because orgasms with your one and only sweetheart can run the gamut from totally spectacular to wimpy/disappointing. This is why it really helps to let go expectations and attachment to outcome/orgasm.

Fortunately, a partner is not required for us to experience orgasm—over my many years talking to people about sex, I’ve learned that the vast majority of us experience our first orgasm alone. Some can climax with their legs squeezed together, while others need to have their legs spread wide; Paul Joannides refers to these as “innies and outies”!

Many people, especially guys, trained themselves as children and teens to climax quietly and quickly so parents or siblings wouldn’t discover their “self-abuse.” Yes, some religious leaders still refer to masturbation this way. Recently, I listened to a client who once shared a room with three older male siblings. He wondered as a child why their beds would rock and sometimes be in different positions each morning … until he began masturbating himself.

The popular recent film “The Sessions” depicts the true story of a middle-aged man (played by John Hawkes) who contracted polio as a very young boy, presumably before he ever masturbated. He hires a surrogate partner (Helen Hunt) who teaches him how to reach orgasm. While most of us require genital stimulation in order to orgasm, the reality of hands-free orgasms such as this convinces me that the ability to experience orgasm is “extrasensory” beyond just the groin.

Joannides says it well: “People who have lost one of their senses do not suddenly grow new ones to compensate. Rather, they are forced to better use the senses that remain. This suggests that many of us could achieve greater sexual pleasure from other parts of our bodies if we learned to allow it.”

© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Jill Denton, LMFT, CSAT, CCS, therapist in Los Osos, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Brenda

    Brenda

    May 22nd, 2013 at 11:43 AM

    For the longest time when we first were together my husband was so set on us reaching orgasm together, and it took me a while to convince him that this was not the end all and be all of having sex. It’s like he was thinking, okay this is the woman I want to marry so to make it all complete this is the one thing that we still have to achieve together.

    Finally, we just had to have a little talk that this did not matter to me, as long as his sexual needs and my sexual needs were being met, what did it matter if it happened at exactly the same time or not? We have been together a number of years now and it still doesn’t happen a whole lot. But I don’t think that just because it doesn’t means that we don’t fulfill one another in that way because I think that we do, and I think that he would agree.

    It has become one of those things that if it happens simultaneously, then great, lucky little surprise. And if not, no big deal.

  • Ida

    Ida

    May 22nd, 2013 at 11:53 AM

    Lord have some kind of mercy. I blushed the whole time I was reading this. I guess I’m just old fashioned. We never, ever spoke of these things back when I was younger. I guess this whole internet thing can let you talk about stuff like this without having to look someone in the eye. I don’t know though. I think it may be better to just keep some things between you and your significant other.

  • Thankfulforu

    Thankfulforu

    May 22nd, 2013 at 11:57 AM

    I know this has absolutely nothing to do with this article, but something the author said has totally just struck a chord within me (no, not THAT kind of chord). I have really been struggling with my weight lately. I lost 40 pounds about three years ago and have allowed twenty to come back on. I think the Buddhist principle (let go to the attachment of outcomes) may be just what I need. AGain, I know it’s not the point, but this could be a total game changer for me. I’ve been really feeling a need to see things in a new way, and I think this just may be what I’ve been searching for.

  • Theo

    Theo

    May 22nd, 2013 at 12:01 PM

    So THAT’S what the Beatles song was all about. Now I get it!!!!!!!!

  • Gina H

    Gina H

    May 22nd, 2013 at 12:04 PM

    Guilty as charged:
    I’m an American who thinks once this big O is done, the gig is up and it’s time to move on.
    A corned beef sandwich is a great idea.
    I’ll have to keep that one in mind.
    A snack after sex is always a good idea.
    Gotta replenish all of that lost energy.

  • ira

    ira

    May 22nd, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    oh man so leave it to the french to be so into what they are experiencing that they don’t even know someone else is in the room why bother? why bother having a partner you care about. just do the job yourself or have a bunch of one night stands yep leave it to the french. geez.

  • nellie b

    nellie b

    May 22nd, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    That is so true that orgasms are different every time. Cuz sometimes it is like mind blowing and sometimes it’s a major fizzle. But you would never know how good it is if you just give up or if you just wander around from person to person. Cuz it is good to be with just one person. And not just cuz of orgasms. But also cuz it is nice to know someone will always be there right beside you all the time.

  • Beatrix

    Beatrix

    May 22nd, 2013 at 12:12 PM

    Really?! Masturbation as self-abuse? I’ve never heard of that before. Fascinating.

  • Orson

    Orson

    May 22nd, 2013 at 12:15 PM

    My partner and I never have simultaneous orgasms. But, it’s never even been an issue. I never even thought that it would be an issue. We’re just lucky I guess.

  • Riley

    Riley

    May 22nd, 2013 at 12:24 PM

    I love that this article is on this website. Americans need to get more comfortable with talking about sex. I guess with priests saying masturbation is self-abuse, we have a long way to go. There is nothing wrong with sex people get it through your head!

  • courtney

    courtney

    May 23rd, 2013 at 4:03 AM

    This is a huge problem in so many relationships and marriages. Sex has been boiled down to one ultimate goal, reaching orgasm, and we have forgotten that there is way more to it than that.

    What has happened to having sex as a way for the partners to connect with one another, and remained something special and meaningful versus wanting to reach this one goal?

    I think that any couples therapist would agree that this is not a healthy track for a sexual relationship to be on. It just adds another kink and far more pressure to a relationship than many can stand to bear.

  • Steve

    Steve

    May 24th, 2013 at 5:28 AM

    the healthiest goal of any relationship is increased intimacy. if we make sex/orgasm just another servant of our drive to know, to be known, to love, to be loved, then the shared meaning associated with the orgasm(s) stimulates the soul long after the body is done rocking (synchronously or asynchronously).

    Jill, love the Buddhist quote, as an application to this topic!!

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